Hugh Grant talks to EW about his role in the 'News of the World' phone hacking scandal: 'They hacked me, I hacked him'

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Image Credit: Landov

There are many remarkable, tragic, and history-making strands to the News of the World phone hacking scandal which continues to dominate British public life more than a week after it was announced that the Rupert Murdoch-owned, 168-year-old paper would close. Just today came the news that senior Murdoch executive and former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks has resigned because of the furore surrounding the title, which stands accused of hacking the phones of thousands of people, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Sienna Miller, Jude Law, and a 13-year-old murder victim named Milly Dowler. And yesterday, the New York Times reported that the FBI has a opened a preliminary inquiry into allegations that the News of the World attempted to gain access to the phone records of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks. Murdoch has also publicly apologized for “serious wrongdoing” in a written ad which is being placed in several British newspapers this weekend.

The most unlikely plotline in this complex saga is the involvement of Hugh Grant, who over the past few months has emerged as one of the most high profile critics of the Murdoch organization. Late last year, the Bridget Jones actor’s car broke down and he was offered a ride by a paparazzo named Paul McMullan. McMullan revealed that he had he had formerly been a News of the World investigative journalist and, according to Grant, confirmed the paper had hacked his phone. Grant later met up with McMullan and secretly recorded their conversation, the transcript of which he subsequently published in U.K. magazine the New Statesman.

Below, Grant talks about how he turned the tables on his tormentors.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you get involved in this story?
HUGH GRANT: I was told I was hacked, originally about six years ago. And the police did nothing about it. Then I had this extraordinary encounter with a News of the World journalist, when my car broke down. When he started boasting about how they’d been tapping my phone and everyone’s phone, and what a close relationship they’d enjoyed with the police and the government, I was so appalled that I did go back a few months later and I got him doing it again over a few drinks. That created quite a big stir. In that article I do ask if he thought the News of the World had also hacked the phones of the the relatives of Milly Dowler and he said, “Yeah, probably.” But until that came out properly in [U.K. newspaper] the Guardian [on July 4], it was difficult to get the whole country outraged. But now they are incandescent.

McMullan had earlier blown the whistle on some of the paper’s dubious activities. But was there still a thrill about recording him like that?
Um, yes. It felt like symmetry for sure. You know, they hacked me, I hacked him

Have you been conferring with other celebrities who believe their phones were hacked?
I’ve had a lot of emails and texts of support from other people who have been hacked, some of whom are actors and singers. But up ’til now, there’s not a lot of people who’ve come over the top of the parapet. Having said that, we now have the absurd situation where both the government and the opposition — who for the best part of 25 years have been afraid of the tabloid press and in particular the Murdoch press — they’re competing to be the most anti-Murdoch, because they’ve caved in to public outrage. And it’s a really fascinating situation whether they will stick to this, or go back to being Murdoch’s little helpers, rather than our elected representatives.

You can read more from Grant — including whether he’s worried his anti-Murdoch stance might hurt his career — in the current issue of Entertainment Weekly.

Read more:
‘News of the World’ scandal: Rupert Murdoch takes out apology

Rebekah Brooks, former ‘News of the World’ editor, resigns post at News International

Jon Stewart nearly loses lunch over ‘News of the World’ hacking scandal… and Hugh Grant’s role in it
Hugh Grant talks role in ‘News of the World’ takedown, awesomely defeats foe with charming aplomb

Comments (46 total) Add your comment
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  • Mac

    I wonder if other Rupert Murdoch-owned news agencies tap phone lines to generate stories? Fox News… ?

    • Skye Hill

      They do. He’s now being investigated by the FBI for doing it in the US. So either FOX news or the WSJ is doing the same.

      • Barb

        As soon as his pols, the Pubbies, get back into office, any claims will be settled or just dismissed. No way any investigation will make it through the courts before January 2013.

      • Tom

        Isn’t it also the individual’s responsibility to change their passwords occasionally? Be reasonable. We all know they get paid to report the news. We all know they pay people to give them stories. You can call it “unethical” but you permitted it for this long, with no explanation at all this entire time. This has been going on long before any of these tabloid presses existed also. Be honest. On the one hand you want to nail old Murdoch to the wall for this happening, but the guy from Wikileaks is your best friend when it comes to getting the news lately. It’s a bit hypocritical at the very least, even though personally I’m not really involved either way.

    • Bill O

      Just like in other companies, employees move around from position to position. Have News of the World employees advanced to other Murdoch companies like Fox?

      • Rose

        Les Hinton, was in charge of all of Murdoch’s tabloids in the UK, including NOTW, when much of the phone hacking happened. Some of his employees even went to jail for it. Hinton moved to the US to run Dow Jones after Murdoch bought it. That means he was the editor of the Wall Street Journal. Hinton resigned Friday July 15 from DJ & WSJ due to the phone hacking scandal.

  • Seeker

    Sounds like a movie plot.

    • Jackie

      Give it a year or two, and I’m sure it will be.

    • gazmo

      Apparently the newspapers published one too many stories about Hugh Grant’s sexual exploits and misadventures!!

      Someone should KNIGHT this guy!

    • Dawn

      I’m guessing Nicole Kidman is happy. She’s a shoe-in for Brooks, plus she can go back to her curly red hair!

  • Autobot

    It’s interesting how every article on this manages to work Murdoch’s name into about every other sentence. Almost as if there’s an agenda at work.

    • Ben

      Considering the fact that he is the main character, why wouldn’t he be mentioned?

      • kate middleton

        He isn’t though – someone named Rebekah Brooks was in charge of NOTW.

      • em

        Murdoch finally stopped protecting her when it became obvious it wouldn’t work.
        He is responsible for his company. People in his company were bribing police and officials. Any other company and he would’ve stepped down by now too.

    • kate middleton

      Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. Everyone is talking about Murdoch. It’s somewhat warranted because he owns the company that owns News of the World. BUT, there is no evidence (as of now) that he knew about this. And it’s not like he’s really involved in the daily operations of any of his subsidiaries – WSJ, Fox News, etc. Liberal media outlets are dying for a chance to take Fox down, and they’re hoping this will work. I doubt it.

      • Helen

        Oh, Murdoch’s in this up to his neck — not because of what happened at the paper, but because of actions he took to protect the paper from the natural consequences of its wrongdoing. They’ve known about this for years — more than a decade — and it took Hugh freakin’ Grant to get an investigation made.

        And get over your Repug paranoia. Nobody thinks this is the end of Fox news. Or do you think they’re actually all part of a master plot to get “Bones” off the air?

      • noelbelle

        Re. Helen
        Fox News and Fox the network are not the same thing.

      • @noelbelle

        Rupert Murdoch owns the Fox Televison Network as well. They are part of the same company. If they take down Murdoch, they take down the whole company.

      • Lois

        It’s been documented that Rupert Murdoch is deeply involved in the running of his news outlets. Rebekah Brooks was Murdoch’s right-hand person.
        The matter of phone hacking and paying off police has been public knowlege for about a decade. There have been employees of hers that have gone to jail for it, and there have been government hearings into the matter. Murdoch had to know about these matters, as they were public knowledge, yet he kept promoting Brooks. Murdoch also had some employees take the fall in the past for this behavior.

      • GLAM

        “And it’s not like he’s really involved in the daily operations of any of his subsidiaries”

        Murdoch has accountants and lawyers – lots of them. There were huge payments for bribed police officers. How do you think a newspaper explains hundred of thousand pounds getting paid for “extra services”? Every boss is asking about dubious payments that is drawn from their money. Naive to think otherwise.

      • alan of montreal

        @@noellebelle it just means someone else will buy it up. The Weinsteins, perhaps?

    • Skye Hill

      He’s the criminal at the center of it. Why wouldnt they mention his name? Buck it up, little Republican.

      • Celimene

        It’s a bit like trying a political leader – a la Milosevic – for command responsiblity. How much did they know? How much did they tacitly approve of? Are they responsible for the actions of those directly beneath them? In Murdoch’s case, he at least tacitly knew what was going on. It would be naive to think that he didn’t. He and Rebekah Brooks were thick as thieves, and as long as his bank account grows bigger, I don’t think Murdoch gives a damn about ethics.

    • Allison

      I’m a Republican who thinks Rupert Murdoch is a terrible human being. I have done a lot of research on him. He thinks we American Republicans are all his pawns. The hacking has been going on for years, and there is documentation that he had knowledge of the hacking dating years back-one of the hackers has already been in jail once for hacking. He also did not apologize quickly enough to the parents of the murdered girl. As a Republican who believes in doing her own research I feel I am in the minority. Look him up, do your research, read his words and think for yourself. I know it’s hard to do your own research, but you owe it to yourself.

    • topazbean

      Murdoch owned the company and paid money to lobbyists against the US anti-bribery laws. And of all the players involved, he’s the most well-known in the US. In the UK Rebekah Brooks probably has been the most discussed figure. Really though, everyone has an agenda, but it’s not like this story was just invented by liberals with an axe to grind. It really happened, and it was appalling. It’s going to be talked about.

    • Javadude54

      There is. Murdoch’s agenda.

    • $$$$$s

      Here’s why Murdoch is mentioned and SHOULD be mentioned: he takes the money, he takes the blame.

    • kahuna

      Wow! Really! It sounds very probable to me that some of the same things that were going on in Great Britain is going on here. Haven’t you noticed how many former politicians and politician consultants are on foxes payroll? Coincidence? I think not!

  • scottm

    I hope these disgusting criminals get everything coming to them. As Hugh Grant has previously stated, “it’s a protection racket”.

  • LOL

    FOX: We Distort You Comply ®

  • Sara

    I love Hugh Grant.

  • Lois

    Good for Hugh Grant in exposing that this went beyond hacking the phones of celebrities. People didn’t care much when the victims were just thought to be celebrities and royalty. That’s to Hugh, people now know that they went way beyond that, hacking ordinary people, especially crime victims and their families. Now that people know anyone could be their victim, people have been outraged.

  • blank

    We’re not celebrities so this doesn’t apply to us.

    Other people, maybe. But not these people.

  • Michael

    The fun thing is – this article makes it sound like lots of people in the UK support Hugh Grant. Most of us just think he’s a bit of a prat, especially after his appearance on Question Time where he just came across as unbelievably smarmy.

    • GLAM

      The fun thing is Michael you seem to be very biased. If you read the comments on British websites the impression about Grant’s Question Time is totally different to yours.

  • topazbean

    Hugh Grant has NOT been leading the charge and I doubt even he would say that he has. This story has been doggedly pursued for years by the Guardian newspaper, despite warnings by the police to lay off, claims they were exaggerating the story, and threats by News International. Hugh Grant did one small but useful thing and, like many other celebrities, has spoken very articulately about the issue, but leading the charge? You must be insane.

  • Tami Michaels Horgmo

    he probably hack’d my phone, take him down

  • twinmom

    Love Hugh Grant…always have always will.

  • Gabby

    “And yesterday, the New York Times reported that the FBI has a opened a preliminary inquiry into allegations that the News of the World attempted to gain access to the phone records of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks”

    That’s sick.

  • Alreadythere

    We should all be asking how Murdoch and his media conglomerate have been influencing global politics — including our own. This is huge. It’s not about a few celebrities being hacked. It’s about who owns our democracy.

  • sunny

    Bravo Hugh Grant, thank you!!!! This is grea that this is coming out!

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